IET events this December – #engineering and technology dates for your diary

November 30, 2016

december iet events‘Tis the season for joy and merriment, and the IET is getting in on the action by offering a number of fun, family Christmas lectures across the UK this month. There are also a number of different social events taking place for IET members of all ages and walks of life, including quizzes and Christmas parties.

But if you’re more interested in education than entertainment, the IET still has something to suit your needs. Both soft skill and technical workshops are on offer throughout December, plus a number of technical visits are taking place all across the globe, including a trip to SBB Zurich main station and a chance to go behind the scenes of London Bridge’s redevelopment.

Finally, the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year  award ceremony takes place on 1 December, so keep your eyes open for all the news on the winners!

Below are a few of our highlights for the month, but also be sure to check out the full IET events listings to find out about everything taking place near you…


01 December, IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards, London, competition

06 December, IET Scotland Christmas Lecture: What goes up might come down, Edinburgh, lecture

06 December, Lifeskills: Back to basics with presenting, London, workshop

10 December, Open day at IET London: Savoy Place, visit

12 December, Ask the engineer – the engineering of toys, Reading, lecture

13-15 December, Engineering Biology Conference

16 December, A room with a boom: Christmas family lecture, Bristol, lecture

16 December, IET and BCS Young Professionals Christmas party, London, social event

17 December, Customer technical centre in 3M HK, Hong Kong, visit

19 December, SBB Zurich Main Station, Zurich, visit


#Trump rides the Beast all the way to the White House – @RealDonaldTrump gets a brand-new @Cadillac – an annotated infographic

November 29, 2016

Donald Trump will ride from his presidential inauguration in a brand new version of the current Cadillac-branded state limousine.

“The Beast” boasts all current hi-tech security features, along with technology upgrades.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.


Trumps Cadillac

#Google Glass this is not – @Snapchat video @Spectacles go on sale – an annotated infographic

November 11, 2016

Snapchat, the imaging messaging service, has begun selling sunglasses which can record videos of what the wearer is seeing, in 10-second segments.

Snap, Inc. are hoping for success where Google failed with its own video glasses (aka Glass), which were roundly lambasted and eventually discontinued in 2015.

E&T looked at the reasons why Glass got cancelled last year.

Snapchat is taking a typically wacky approach to retailing for Spectacles, selling them directly out of custom vending machines that have popped-up in California.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.



India and Russia to build new stealth warplane – an annotated infographic

November 11, 2016

After repeated delays, India and Russia are hoping to finalise an agreement to jointly develop a new stealth jet under the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) project, based on Russia’s T-50 prototype.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.


IET events this November – #engineering and technology dates for your diary

November 1, 2016



This November the IET has a wide variety of events on offer for those interested in engineering and technology. As well as a huge array of informative lectures there’s a great selection of technical visits on offer including a trip to RLab Reading Hackspace, a chance to check out the Defence Academy’s armoured vehicles in Swindon and an anaerobic digester and wind turbine tour in Newtonstewart.

Internationally there are also several interesting events taking place including – but not limited to – a visit to the Royal New Zealand Navy in Auckland to discuss technology in fighting frigates and a technical tour of Hong Kong International Airport in Lantau.

A variety of Lifeskills workshops are being held across the UK if you’d like to improve on your soft skills, plus there are several longer courses available on topics such as TRIZ and specification writing as well as the IET’s regular professional development and registration workshops.

Finally, for young engineers it may be worth noting that this November there is a Student and employer engagement day taking place at IET London: Savoy Place. Aimed at engineering students and recent grads, this is an opportunity to learn more about working in industry, summer placements and internship opportunities as well as networking with a wide range of potential employers.

Below are some of our highlights for the month, but be sure to check out the full IET events listings to find out about everything taking place near you.


02 November, Energy Technology Centre, East Kilbride, visit

03 November, The Aston Martin DB11 powertrain, Rugby, lecture

05 November, UC San Diego Formula SAE Racecar team, San Diego, visit

08 November, Big data analytics for smart power networks, London, seminar

15 November, Biomedical systems: where electronics meets biology, Swindon, lecture

15-16 November, Mastering requirements using MBSE, London, course

16 November, The IET Innovation Awards 2016, London, competition

16 November, Eirgrid NCC, Dublin, visit

16 November, Cybersecurity – how to remain vigilant and avoid online threats, Guildford, lecture

17 November, Introduction to bidding and tendering, London, course

19-20 November, Imagineering Fair, Coventry, exhibition

21 November, Continuing professional development webinar, online, course

23 November, Lifeskills: the art of being assertive, Belfast, course

29 November, Internet of Things: healthcare – connecting the sick and elderly

30 November, Specification writing, London, course

IET events this October – #engineering and technology dates for your diary

October 6, 2016


The IET’s web of local and technical networks spreads far and wide this month – both in terms of geography and topics covered. A number of technical visits are taking place across the UK, Europe and Asia including a technical visit to a Hong Kong marine theme park – an event arranged by local students.

As well as the opportunity to go behind the scenes of aquariums, hydroelectric plants and automotive manufacturing sites there’s a variety of lectures going ahead in October. Highlights include the famous Professor Kevin Warwick giving his assessment of Alan Turing’s Imitation Game and the IET’s 2016 Young Professionals event entitled Robots in space: the final frontier.

October also hosts special events such as the IET’s exciting ‘Engineering the Future’ festival and the annual IET President’s address, where incoming IET President Professor Jeremy Watson will discuss ‘The Interdisciplinary jigsaw – developing the engineering future.’

In addition there’s also a wide range of workshops, seminars and courses designed to support engineers’ professional development taking place throughout October. Subjects include employability, professional registration, project management, finance and commercial awareness.

Below are a few of our highlights for the month, but also be sure to check out the full IET events listings to find out about everything taking place near you.

06 October, Engineering the Future Festival, London, workshop

06 October, The IET President’s Address, London, lecture

07 October, Bentley Motors headquarters and production plant, Crewe, visit

10 October, Employability – How to win a job, Adelaide, workshop

11-13 October, Model-based approach to systems engineering, London, course

12 October, Routes to registration, Coventry, workshop

13 October, Jaguar Land Rover plant tour, Solihull, visit

17 October, Leading and developing successful teams, online, course

18 October, Commercial awareness for technical people, London, course

19 October, SIG Solar 3 and Verbois solar and hydroelectric stations, Geneva, visit

19 October, Star Wars: the battle for space supremacy, Guildford, lecture

20 October, Robots in space: the final frontier, London, lecture

21 October, Breathe easy: engineering air quality solutions now, Birmingham, conference

25-27 October, Finance and accounting, Bristol, course

Google goes big on #AI with #PixelPhone – an annotated infographic

October 5, 2016

Google has revealed a new flagship smartphone dubbed “Pixel” which pushes the company’s advances into artificial intelligence (AI) by integrating a smart assistant that can be accessed from any screen.

It also introduced a range of new products aimed at creating a smart home with Google Home, a voice-controlled speaker that can be used to manage and control other smart appliances and answer questions, at its centre.
E&T reported the full details of Google’s new Pixel phone earlier today.
Click on the graphic for an expanded view.
Google Pixel phone

Google Pixel phone

E&T #news weekly – we choose our favourite #engineering and #technology stories from the past week

September 16, 2016

Friday 16 September 2016

Rebecca Northfield  Rebecca Northfield, assistant features editor
Monkeys transcribe Hamlet with new brain-reading tech

Researchers want to use this technology to eventually help people suffering with severe paralysis like good old Steve Hawking. Monkeys with brain implants were able to move a cursor on a screen and transcribe words from Shakespeare and the New York Times. Pretty cool, right? But I have one thing to say. Why on earth did they use Shakespeare? Someone who hasn’t really studied the bloke’s numerous plays, sonnets, poems etc would be completely lost if they were to read, transcribe, dictate or even generally understand an excerpt from one of his works. For example, this is a passage from Hamlet. Ophelia is basically saying that the advice she has been given by her brother Laertes on her relationship with Hamlet was totally hypocritical and she thinks Laertes will not follow his own advice when he pops off to college: “Do not, as some ungracious pastors do, Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven, Whiles, like a puffed and reckless libertine, Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads, And recks not his own rede.” Yeah. You can totally get that from the text, right? This is how I think a monkey’s brain would process the text if they were trying to transcribe it: “Do not, as some ungracious pastors do [do these men not say please or thank you, or something?], Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven, [Someone’s a bit pessimistic] Whiles, [While. Okay I’ll write that down. No wait, it’s whiles. Whiles?] like a puffed and reckless [puffed? Like a cushion? Or popcorn? I like popcorn] libertine, Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads, [This guy sounds like a bit of an idiot] And recks [Recks?! What the hell is that?] not his own rede [Red-e? Red. E. Is it ready? Sounds like ready. What is it? Oh man, now nothing makes sense].”

Lorna Sharpe  Lorna Sharpe, sub-editor
Terahertz spectrometer allows unopened books to be read

Researchers at MIT and Georgia Tech in the US have been able to read text clearly on the top nine sheets of a stack of paper and see writing on up to 20 by directing ultrashort bursts of terahertz radiation into the stack and analysing the signals that are reflected back. One day, museums might be able to use the technology to scan the contents of old books too fragile to handle or to examine paintings to confirm their authenticity or understand the artist’s creative process. This really appeals to my twin interests in technology and history.

Reykjavik to go emissions-free by 2040

The mayor of Reykjavik wants to make the Icelandic capital carbon-neutral in less than 25 years. He’s starting from a good position, as the city is already powered by hydroelectricity and its buildings are heated from geothermal sources. The next steps are to restrict urban sprawl and develop a mass-transit system that people will use in preference to driving. Beyond that, it will need some pretty impressive developments before 2020 to make sure that every non-car vehicle scrapped after, say, 2025 (from road rollers to fire engines) can be replaced by a commercially available, economically sensible, clean alternative.

Katia Moskvitch  Katia Moskvitch, technology features editor
SpaceX to resume rocket launches in November following explosion

Despite a launch pad explosion that destroyed a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on 1 September, the seemingly undaunted company has now said that it will resume flights as early as November this year. The firm is currently investigating what went wrong, and why the rocket suddenly burst into flames as it was being fuelled for a routine prelaunch test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. “We’re anticipating getting back to flight, being down for about three months, so getting back to flight in November, the November timeframe,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said earlier this week during a panel discussion at the World Satellite Business Week Conference in Paris. Well, it’s great news, and hopefully soon commercial missions to space will become routine.

Dickon Ross  Dickon Ross, editor in chief
Drive to work reaches end of the road in the smart city

Do autonomous vehicles need to become more confident? While freight convoys can crawl along our motorways at night to reduce congestion and save fuel, unmanned passenger vehicles need to contend with other traffic and they need to be more assertive if they are to be more popular with the public, thought delegates to this year’s TM Forum Smart City conference in Yinchuan, China. Autonomous vehicles’ cautious – perhaps even over-cautious – algorithms make it more difficult for them to turn into busy traffic than human drivers edging their way or even forcing their way into busy roads. They tend to hold back and that can mean long, frustrating waits for the occupants. They can also tend to ‘stutter’ down the road, nervously stopping and starting down the road, and this could be made worse by pedestrians’ knowledge that the vehicles will always stop for them – unlike the traffic where I live. Autonomous vehicles should “behave more badly” said one speaker. But how nicely or badly should they behave? The first person to be hit by an unmanned vehicle that just didn’t stop will be very bad for the industry – no matter how many people are killed every day on the roads by manned vehicles.

UK likely to miss renewable energy targets for 2020

It looks like the UK is going to miss its legally binding renewable energy targets for 2020. Brexit means it may not have to pay the EU fine but it probably deserves too. The problem areas for the UK are housing – especially insulation – and transport.

London set to electrify bus fleet

London mayor Sadiq Kahn has announced many more all-electric buss for the capital. For those who don’t know London transport, the frequent bus service is a popular way of commuting in London and they are well used – often full at rush hour. It won’t make much difference to the UK meeting its 2020 targets but its’ a helpful contribution to improving the poor air quality in London.

Reykjavik to go emissions-free by 2040

Reykjavik’s mayor is being much more ambitious in declaring the city will be carbon-neutral by 2040. But it is powered by geothermal energy and to be fair there aren’t many volcanoes near London.

dominic-lenton  Dominic Lenton, managing editor
Terahertz spectrometer allows unopened books to be read

I’m not familiar enough with the work of JK Rowling to be certain, but this bit of research from the US sounds close enough to Arthur C Clarke’s dictum of sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic to be something that Harry Potter and friends have achieved at some point with the help of a quick incantation. The serious use of the ability to read a book without opening it in the real world isn’t as exotic as accessing the contents of a dusty, padlock-bound grimoire – there are some paper artefacts so fragile that even trying to lift the cover could damage them to the point where they become unreadable. Scanning with terahertz waves could give archivists the ability to scan the contents with no danger of them crumbling to dust. And there are more prosaic applications in industry, for example to detect defects in vehicle structures that are concealed by several coats of paint. At $100,000 dollars a time though, for now no one’s going to be using it to grab a surreptitious peep at the contents of your diary or other confidential documents.

Vitali Vitaliev  Vitali Vitaliev, features editor
Reykjavik to go emissions-free by 2040

You know what; after a week spent in Iceland last year, I can believe this! During my visit, I only managed to see the outskirts of Reykjavik, but even in the suburbs the pavements (or ‘sidewalks’ as they say in Iceland, American-style) get heated using geothermal energy from hot springs in winter. Iceland’s capital, like many other towns in that vast yet sparsely populated country, is sitting on top of a large magma chamber that makes the area prone to volcanic eruptions. Through the years, Icelanders have learned to use this precarious geography to their advantage as a clean energy source – an example to be commended and emulated wherever possible. Having all but missed Reykjavik, I did manage to visit Hveragerði, about 50km from the capital, the town that is also known as the hot springs capital of the world. Indeed, Hveragerði and the surrounding area are literally swarming with hot springs, and the locals routinely use geothermal energy not just for heating all their dwellings and Iceland’s biggest public swimming pool, but also for cooking, baking, washing up and even for making their world-famous ice cream! The hot springs’ energy is used in dozens of hot houses in which various tropical and subtropical plants are being cultivated, so some of the bananas we buy in UK. While there, I had a chance to dip into a hot (not burning hot!) spring – very relaxing; and even to cook my breakfast (not very well) in a special geothermal oven – the experience I shared in my last year’s Christmas ‘After All’ column.

Brexit not a threat for UK space sector

It becomes increasingly clear that the multiple myths of the dangers posed by Brexit, from complete economic collapse to the start of World War III, spread by some ‘Remain’ supporters have been grossly exaggerated. Less than three months after the referendum, the British economy is picking up, the pound is recovering its strength – slowly but surely; and the somewhat panicky mood is being replaced with new confidence and dignity. It’s now obvious (to me at least) that, free of excessive controls and regulations, the British space sector, as well as the country’s engineering, science and manufacturing industry, are all in for a new age of growth and prosperity in the post-EU era.

Book review and giveaway: Measurement A Very Short Introduction – David J. Hand

September 16, 2016

By Jade Fell 

Here at E&T we want to make it easier for you to expand your knowledge of engineering and technology-specific matter. That’s why we have once again teamed up with Oxford University Press and are giving the chance for 10 lucky readers to win the latest in the Very Short Introduction series.


Measurement may not sound like the most exciting topic to sink your teeth into as it takes a certain type of person to become excited by a ruler. Yet this book has much more to offer than just a history of centimetres (cm) and inches. Rather, it serves as a brief, but comprehensive glimpse into a social construct that boasts a history that is inextricably bound with the many great leaps forward of civilisation. In Measurement A very Short Introduction, author David Hand traces the origins of measurement back to the beginning of civilised human society, with the birth of agricultural production.

Original units – which relied largely on basic physical objects to quantify length and weight – were of course hugely variable, depending as they did on physical objects. Of course, if there is nothing fundamental leading to the choice of object, other systems of measurement can be adopted. It’s hardly surprising then that a huge number of different systems have been adopted – today we have grams and kilos, pounds and ounces and the dreaded American ‘cup’.

When you take into account the history of units of measurements, measurement itself seems like a fairly vague thing – but this couldn’t be further from the truth. What is a cm? You could say that it is 10mm, or 1/100th of a metre, but how can it be defined on its own? The history is complicated and points toward the need for a unified method of measurement. This became especially important with the rise of scientific experimentation in the 20th century. It’s been a long time coming, but with the birth of the metric system we are getting close, although there are a few stubborn nations who insist on holding on to their outdated ways.

Of course, measurement is not a purely scientific thing, but can also be used to understand social aspects of society. Far from a scientific concept, it spans the entire range of human society, from the purely physical to the wholly abstract. Economic progress can be measured, but it requires a much different system measuring milk or grain – it is something that cannot be conceived with a basic unit of inflation. This, Hand says, is the difference between representative measurement and pragmatic measurement, a wholly different and complex school of thought which is becoming more important to our understanding of society.

Measurement A Very Short Introduction offers the reader a wonderfully accessible route into a hugely complex subject that spans the fields of science, sociology, history and anthropology. From the simple grains and fathoms of old, to GDP, GNI and the modern-day World Happiness Index – the history of measurement has a lot to say about the development of society. Hand has taken a topic that spans almost the whole of human existence and condensed it into a book which the avid reader could easily conquer in an afternoon.

If you want to be in with the chance of winning a copy of Measurement A Very Short Introduction all you have to do is comment on this post by next Friday (23rd) at midday. Ten winners will then be selected at random. Good luck!

Term and conditions
This giveaway is open to UK entrants only and runs until 23/09/2016 at midday. There are tene books available. There is no cash alternative and the prize is not transferable. Employees of the IET and their families may not enter.
A winner will be picked at random and contacted via email. If they do not respond within 3 days, another winner will be picked. Entrants’ details will be used only in connection with this competition and not retained or passed to any third parties.
E&T, as the promoter, reserves the right to cancel or amend the giveaway and these terms and conditions without notice.

E&T #news weekly – we choose our favourite #engineering and #technology stories from the past week

September 9, 2016

Friday 9 September 2016

Jack Loughran  Jack Loughran, news reporter
Apple finally unveils iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus and Watch 2

Another year, another iPhone. This time it’s the iPhone 7, which actually removes features found in previous years’ models rather than adding new ones, namely the headphone jack and a real, clickable home button (real buttons! those were the days). While the removal of the button is probably the first step towards an entirely software-based home button (like Android has had for about four years) which is a good thing, the removal of the headphone jack has not been received positively. Apple knew this was going to be an unpopular move, which is why it bundled with it two sets of wired headphones that plug into the lightning port and a 3.5mm adapter that users can attach normal headphones to. This pandering seems like it’s missing the point of removing the port in the first place – to push the market towards wireless headphones. Considering Apple also unveiled wireless versions of its standard headphones at the iPhone 7 launch event, surely these should have been included instead to show iPhone buyers that this is the future. Instead the box will simply include a begrudging reminder that everyone really just wants to stick to reliable wires and can’t be bothered to worry about charging yet another device or worrying about inconsistent Bluetooth reception.

Rebecca Northfield  Rebecca Northfield, assistant features editor
Sellafield nuclear plant is understaffed and dangerous BBC alleges

The Incredible Sellafield Hulk is coming! You shouldn’t really joke about how many lives are being put in danger here, but they are putting radioactive waste into bottles. What if someone was like “OOO GLOWING MOUNTAIN DEW! WHAT A HANDSOME DRINK!” Then they guzzle it down and die? Or they are Bruce Banner and are able to stand the nuclear poisoning and become the awesome super/anti-hero that everyone loves. They would be a Cumbrian Bruce Banner. How many people would be able to understand the comic book, what with all of the northern dialogue. “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry, pet like…I need to get to the cowey!” Let’s hope they improve things, as they may have an outbreak of incredible green livestock, too.

Jade Fell  Jade Fell, assistant features editor
Apple finally unveils iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus and Watch 2

I have absolutely no interest in ever owning an Apple product, but I was quite keen to see the specs of the new iPhone, if only to confirm my theory that it was going to be as much of a disappointment as the old iPhone models. I was right. First and foremost, I cannot believe that Apple still hasn’t developed an iPhone that can fast charge. Especially considering nearly all new Android phones come with this feature as standard, while costing significantly less than the iPhone’s staggering £599 price tag. And don’t even get me started on that stupid headphone jack. Why would you want to limit your users to only using the headphones supplied in your grossly overpriced box? Some people spend a lot of money on high-quality headphones and probably want to continue using them. I’m also fairly sure I’m not the only one who sometimes uses my headphones while charging my phone – or do Apple users not do this? I know a fair few of you are probably going to go out and buy an iPhone anyway, and that at least one person reading this will go and buy it without even looking at the specs, but I really think you should reconsider. Save yourself a few pennies and go for one of the top-end Android phones instead.

Tereza Pultarova  Tereza Pultarova, news reporter
Fish scales help develop biomass power generator in India

The moral of this story is that there is no such thing as waste if you know what to do with it. Indian scientists demonstrated their resourcefulness and successfully used fish scales to create a biodegradable and biocompatible energy harvester that creates electrical energy when exposed to mechanical pressure. Fish waste is abundant in India and the researchers already dream about fish-scale-powered heart pacemakers harnessing the power of the beating heart.

London Underground retires 90-year-old tech in line upgrades

No surprise the London Tube is plagued with signal and all other sorts of failures when some of the technology in use to run the extensive network is …. ehm….. not exactly cutting-edge. But the situation will hopefully change within the next five years. 1920s systems will assume their well-deserved spots in museums and something a bit more modern will take their place. London Underground says that thanks to new technology frequency of trains on Circle and Hammersmith & City lines will increase by 33 per cent by 2020.

Jonathan Wilson  Jonathan Wilson, online managing editor
Minecraft map has gamers fighting virtual Great Fire of London

350 years after an unfortunate bakery conflagration snafu began at Thomas Farriner’s establishment in Pudding Lane, eventually wiping out most of the medieval City of London and destroying the homes of approximately 70,000 of the City’s 80,000 inhabitants, the Museum of London recognised the landmark date with – what else? – a Minecraft recreation of the 17th-century City of London, enabling players to follow the path of the fire, attempt to extinguish it with authentic (read: virtually useless) firefighting equipment and hobnob in a blocky way with such well-known London residents as King Charles II and Samuel Pepys. You can also play as Thomas Farriner, although you’d be advised to keep away from TNT if you do, given his track record with highly flammable objects.

London Underground retires 90-year-old tech in line upgrades

On the subject of really old things, in the news this week was the announcement by London Underground that it is finally retiring a 90-year-old station box at Edgware Road, which at time of writing is still ensuring the safe running of trains on the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines, just as it has since 1920. The news that London’s Tube still runs in part on relatively primitive technology first installed shortly after the end of World War One possibly wasn’t much of a revelation to anyone attempting to use the Northern Line on a daily basis, but it certainly showed that they really knew how to build things in those days. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t break it.

dominic-lenton  Dominic Lenton, managing editor
Parents encourage interest in STEM but ill-equipped to help

Viewers of TV quiz shows like University Challenge will be familiar with the feeling. Jeremy Paxman fires off a question about something you vaguely remember from school science – it could be to do with the periodic table, the structure of the kidney or the electromagnetic spectrum – and you’re reasonably sure you can dredge up the answer from wherever it’s been sitting in your long-term memory for the couple of decades since you sat your last exam. Maybe you’re right more than half the time, but it’s the other half, when you’ve got it hopelessly wrong, that might make you pause when it’s your own children asking for help with their school work. It goes some way to explaining why, although the vast majority of parents acknowledge the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths subjects, so many are reluctant to give advice. Even for maths, which most will have studied at least to GCSE level or equivalent, more than a third of parents lack confidence; that figure rises to around half for biology and roughly two-thirds for physics and chemistry. At least energy company E.ON isn’t just highlighting the problem, but has launched a website to help parents and children “painlessly discover the world of STEM”. If you’re among the 46 of parents who admitted in the company’s survey that they would struggle with the sort of exam 13 and 14 year olds sit these days, perhaps you should give it a look.